Geneva is home to the biggest expat population in the world, with around 45% of its inhabitants being of more than 200 different nationalities. This is what makes our city so lively and interesting: a friendly mish-mash of cultures, a diversity of languages… But if Geneva is one of the most “expat-friendly” spots in Europe, is it really useful to learn the language?
We reached out to one of our former students, Marta, so she could share her experience of being a Genevan expat and learning French.
R.L. Learning: Hi Marta! Would you care to introduce yourself to our readers (age, nationality, job)?
I’m Marta, I’m Polish and I arrived in Geneva in 2018 to become an Au Pair. I’m 26 years old and now I work as a nanny.
What drove you to move to Geneva?
I chose Geneva because of the French language. It was my dream to speak French and I thought being an Au Pair would help me learn quickly.
Why Geneva? What made you think it was the proper place to start a new life?
I thought it would be the best place because of the languages we use here. Everyone speaks French and English so it was enough to reassure me – it wouldn’t have been a problem to find the solution to an administrative issue for instance.
What might be the strangest thing you encountered living there – what one can call a cultural shock -?
I’d say the culture of open-mindedness and solidarity really struck me. Language-wise, I was surprised to see that even older people could speak English.
How did you manage to settle into your new life in this city? Is there one thing that helped you more than any other things (finding an activity, meeting new people…)?
In Geneva, everything works around Facebook. That’s where I found free Zumba classes in a park and started meeting new people. My French lessons with Vesna, my prof, who motivated me every day, motivated me even more to go out in the world and meet new people from other countries and other cultures, which was really interesting.
Did you know they spoke French in Geneva? Did it scare you?
Before coming to Geneva, all I knew about Geneva was that they spoke French. That’s all!
How did you manage to learn the language?
My lessons with Vesna were really helpful. Her positivity really motivated me. She recommended me a lot of books, films, and music to improve my French. If I had some troubles in the beginning, I remained motivated and started to watch movies I knew by heart, but with French subtitles and French language once per week. After that, everything was easier!
Did it help you settle in?
Yes, definitely. I’m happy here and I can say that learning French has contributed greatly to it!